The Struggle for Black Equality 1954-1980 Questions and Answers
by Harvard Sitkoff

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What are some quotes from The Struggle for Black Equality 1954-1980 by Harvard Sitkoff? This is a study guide question posted by eNotes Editorial. Please identify and analyze at least 3 quotes in your response.

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The repeated heroism of the black men, women, and children engaged in the school-desegregation battle, moreover, broke the shackles from many chained minds. (36)

Sitkoff describes the way in which the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision catalyzed the civil rights movement. Sitkoff writes that the case had little practical impact at first, as by 1960 (six years after the Brown decision), less than one percent of black students in the South actually attended desegregated schools.

At first, black people had hoped that the decision in Brown would quickly dismantle the legal segregation that had been put into effect after the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision of 1896 allowed "separate but equal" accommodations for black and white people in transportation, schools, and other public areas (of course, these separate facilities were not equal and are inherently racist). However, what the decision in Brown did was galvanize black activists to fight for their civil rights. The decision convinced them that the federal government would support them in their struggle.

The Black Panther publicist Eldridge Cleaver would later write about that moment: "Somewhere in the universe a gear in the machinery had shifted." (38)

Sitkoff writes about the critical and decisive moment when Rosa Parks decided not to move on the Montgomery, Alabama bus on which she was riding home from her job as a seamstress at Montgomery Fair department store in 1955. It was very rare for a black person like Parks to refuse to abide by segregation laws, as black people knew that retaliation awaited them if they did so. However, Parks's calm refusal to move captured what Martin Luther King called the "zeitgeist," or the spirit of the times (38). Her action, King believed, was a response to the way black people had been treated for a very long time, and her action was also a symbol of hope that, with resistance, the future would be better. Her refusal to move shifted the dynamic between white and black people and made successful resistance feel possible.

He equated apathy, not protest, with sin. (55)

Martin Luther King inspired black people to protest in Montgomery, Alabama and elsewhere. King realized, Sitkoff writes, that black citizens had been kept down by fear and by the sense that protest was unchristian. Instead, King used his position in the church to change the dynamic so that not protesting was seen as sinful. This was King's brilliant tactic to change the minds of the black community so that they endorsed and participated in protest.

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